Q & A with Stanford’s Green Grid Radio

Green Grid Radio is a new hour-long weekly radio show from Stanford radio. The show airs Tuesdays, 1-2pm PST on KZSU Stanford 90.1FM in the San Francisco Bay Area and online at kzsulive.stanford.edu. Recordings of the shows are also available at greengridradio.org and the podcast is available via iTunes here.

Curious about the creation of Green Grid Radio? Adam Pearson, a Stanford student and the show’s producer answers questions from Project Groundswell.

1. Where did the idea for Green Grid Radio come from?

I’d been involved at KZSU Stanford for four years, primarily focusing on a music show. The whole time I kept my extra-curricular interests of radio separate from my academic pursuits of atmospheric sciences and energy engineering. Finally, I thought it would be fun to merge my two passions.

More importantly, the older I’ve gotten the experiences I’ve had working on environmental causes and problems have shown me the severe and critical need for more environmental education. Up until Hurricane Sandy, climate change was not mentioned in the American 2012 election cycle debates or major speeches.

This lack of public interest and awareness during one of the most dramatic years in our planet’s recent climate (hottest month on record in USA, Arctic ice at all-time low, lengthy, costly drought, etc) is merely symptomatic of the prevailing apathy.

There is a dire need for discussions about climate and energy solutions, and I can only hope we’re providing that in our show on renewable energy. Also, these topics traditionally don’t receive much attention in the medium of radio, so in a way it’s all an interesting experiment. At times it kind of feels like we’re pulling up our wagon to the Oregon Trail.

Jeffrey Turner

2. What is the set-up of the show?

Each show we have an “Energy in the News” segment, which provides a mix of local, national, and international energy topics. It’s supposed to be like dipping your toes into the pool of energy information.

Following that we have a section called “Powering Up,” which is run by Nick McIntyre, one of the show’s producers. Powering Up is about bringing the audience up to speed with concepts that are likely present in the featured interview. Sometimes our interviews may go into technical details that may be a bit difficult to understand to the average civilian.

Finally, we usually go to a Roundtable Discussion, featuring prominent Stanford students in the energy/green community. These students usually weigh in and react to the ideas presented in the interview, offer some input on the feasibility of the plan(s)/ideas/suggestions, and speak briefly about their experience. It’s truly a jam-packed show and pretty dense for one hour.

3. What kinds of guests have you had on? Who do you plan to have in the future?

We’ve had Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson and representatives from various industries so far. We’ve had Eric Corey Freed, a green architect, as well as some folks in the nonprofit world — Laura Wisland from Union of Concerned Scientists and Craig Lewis from the Clean Coalition. We’re definitely hoping to take advantage of being on the Stanford campus by bringing in more faculty in the near future. One guest coming on the show in the near future will beDr. Phil Duffy at Lawrence Livermore Labs, and formerly of the Obama White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. And probably the biggest coup we’ve pulled off is an interview with UNDP Administrator, the Honourable Helen Clark who was also formerly Prime Minister of New Zealand. That should be coming up soon as well.

4. Who has been your favorite?

All of our guests have been articulate and offered a unique perspective. Perhaps the most entertaining of them was Eric Corey Freed. Freed joked a bit, he calls our generation the “Dodo Sapiens.” I can’t do his spiel justice, but he does a lot of speaking on environmental issues and is obviously comfortable making fun of our culture to emphasize his points.

5. Why is this an important topic? Why focus on the green grid?

I truly believe that the defining issue of our generation is not the economy or immigration, but climate change. It is a global problem that requires so much work on the individual level up to the international level. Developed countries tend to have freedom of choice to consume and consume. We all have gadgets and things we don’t necessarily need, and this has become a part of our culture. It is politically impossible and otherwise extraordinarily difficult to propose solutions involving curbing our freedom to make decisions.

In order for us to be able to watch American Idol (or whatever it is people watch these days) and plug in our iPads so we can go on facebook at Starbucks, we need a way to power that television and that iPad with clean, renewable power.

Otherwise we’ll find our cities under storm surges, our crops drying up, and our water running out, and suddenly the question won’t be whether or not I want to buy the new iPad, but whether or not I’ll be able to find affordable food in the grocery stores after massive droughts, for example.

6. Where would you like to see it go in the future?

I would love for this show to grow and move forward without me. I’m graduating this year, so the show will certainly be around through March… Stanford students have a lot on their plates. I’ve learned this from experience. It’s going to be a challenge to find a replacement team that shares the same vision and passion, but hopefully we’ll locate that group. But to answer the question more conceptually and abstractly, I would like the show to carry a greater sense of narrative, and I would like for a greater variety of voices leading the interviews. As much as I enjoy interviewing our guests, I can only listen to my voice so much! I think establishing and controlling the narrative of an episode is a high-level skill that will be developed over the course of the year, as we improve our editing techniques, and hear what listeners like best.

7. Anything else you’d like to add?

One of the difficult things in the environmental community, or any activist community for that matter, is that we all are sort of preaching to the choir. I hope Green Grid Radio and Project Groundswell can both reach out and affect people who would have otherwise never tuned in, or stumbled across the website.

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